Karim Monroe, Kamaru Oseni, and Kashetu Oseni were all just awarded Scholastic Writing Awards! Karim won a Silver Key for his memoir, and Kam and Kash won honorable mentions for their short fiction and poetry respectively.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12. The awards are given through the Massachusetts affiliate partner, The Boston Globe. “The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards program has been part of The Boston Globe’s commitment to the community for decades, and to the development, education, and well-being of young people in Massachusetts. Thanks to support from the Boston Globe Foundation, the Scholastic program introduces the Boston community to a new generation of young artistic talent.”
Congratulations to Karim, Kam, and Kash! Read their projects below.
by Kashetu Oseni
You ever think about that sort of privilege gap.
I mean that gap between kids White, and kids Black.
I mean mad of these public schools are so damn wack.
And mad of us urban kids gotta attend that.
We gotta attend schools with 30 kids to a class.
Where you’re expected to do very simple tasks.
Where you learn only the basic ABC’s.
and you learn only the basic 123’s.
Where school is just way too elementary.
To private schools, what we learn is rudimentary.
Where kids aren’t even really challenged.
Where it’s okay for kids to settle for average.
Where you must raise your hand if you want to simply stand.
And raise your hand if you wanna use the can.
Where teachers tell students they have high expectations.
But then students receive very poor education.
I realized if I want an education that’s a whole lot more than good.
My best bet is attending a private school in a White neighborhood.
But just look at what these elite schools lack.
They have a lack of students who are Black.
It seems in these schools students of color are rare.
And I just think to myself, “man it’s so unfair”.
Why do White kids have so much opportunity.
At most, schools are mediocre in the Black community.
And these private schools claim to have diversity.
Then I see one Black kid on my tour, man don’t lie to me!
I guess going to a wealthy school is my only solution.
If I want to get myself the very best education.
Though being the minority at these schools may be stressful.
It’s my only path to becoming successful.
by Karim Monroe
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, and if he was alive today I think he would be tremendously disappointed that we have not taken enough action to stop racism in the world.
I was in the 6th grade when I encountered my first racist. I had just gotten off my bus to go home and as I walked down the street I saw a man in a wheelchair. He had a great big beard and out of control red hair. He was at the corner to my left and he hadn’t seen me yet as I walked in his direction. So I continued to stare at him observing his face and his other physical attributes. As I kept walking in his direction, when I got to the corner he looked at me and made eye contact. I didn’t break eye contact with him and I smiled. He didn’t smile back and his gaze hardened. He then said, “What are you looking at, you Muslim nigger?” When I heard that, I kept walking. He kept yelling racial slurs at me, but at this point his words were passing right through me and I couldn’t hear him.
I walked all the way home thinking about it. Should have I said something back? Should I have walked home a different way? Should I have tried to fight the man in a wheelchair, or should I have not looked at him at all? It took me a long time to come up with an answer because there was really no answer; there was no better way than what I had done, just walk away. The next day I tried to forget it and take what I learned from the situation. I got off the bus not even thinking about what happened yesterday and started walking down the street to where it all happened. I got to the corner and I could see the same guy from yesterday with his giant beard and his crazy red hair, sitting in his wheelchair in the middle of the street, just like last time. I stared at him confused by the fact that he had decided to come back. He looked at me and I made eye contact. I was so angry all I saw was red. When I looked at him, I balled my hand into a fist behind my back. Breaking eye contact, he closed his eyes and smiled at me. At this point, I noticed my breathing had changed and I had become calm. In an instant, I forgave him for calling me a Muslim, forgave him for calling me nigger and forgave him for the other racial slurs.
I think Dr. King would agree with how I handled the situation because I didn’t resort to violence, and I didn’t say anything mean or hateful to him. But if Dr. King was still here today I would have so many questions for him. Like, why do things like this happen? Why are people still so hateful? What makes people say such horrible things? I don’t think he’d have all the answers to my questions. But I agree with Dr. King, especially his statement: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Nothing Gold Can Satisfy
by Kamaru Oseni
“Good job out there, officer,” Captain Allen congratulated me. “He would have been squashed if you hadn’t talked him out of it.”
We simultaneously looked at Paul Weston. He was sitting down in the gray and empty interrogation room, playing with his glistening, authentic gold watch. He was a middle-aged, handsome man. His gray hair was slicked back and his beard well trimmed. I didn’t have to look at the labels on his clothes to be able to tell that his whole attire was designer. I was in the New York City Police headquarters. Ubiquitous ringing telephones, loud walkie talkies, and officers swarmed the place as usual.
“Crazy, this is going to be all over the news,” I told Captain Allen. “I’m going to have a chat with him if that’s okay with you. See if I can find out what he was thinking.”
“He’s all yours.”
I walked into the interrogation room. I sat across from him with a table between us. He kept playing with his watch and let out a spurious half smile. I could already sense my distaste for him even though I didn’t know him on a personal level. Maybe it was jealousy of his wealth. I wasn’t sure. I let out a small scoff.
“Mr. Paul Weston.” I got his attention and he looked at me.
“That’s me,” he replied.
“Mr. Owner of the Savitar Sports car, Paul Weston?” I asked as if I didn’t know the answer. “Mr. Weston towers and hotels. Paul Weston? Mr. Face of the leisure magazine, Mr. Top ten billionaires in the world, ladies man, Paul Weston?” he smiled and raised his eyebrows as if to confirm.
I scoffed again. “I don’t understand. You were about to jump off of your own tower, yet you have everyth–”
“Exactly,” he interrupted. He looked at me with a straight face then he laid back in his chair. Smiling. “I have everything,” he repeated.
I was perplexed and I gave him a grim look because I thought he was boasting. He leaned towards me.
“Tell me Officer D…David Smith,” he said while reading my name on my breast pocket of my uniform. “What college did you graduate from?” Who is this rich punk to be asking me questions is what I initially thought, but I wanted to show off.
“New York University,” I said proudly.
“You were raised here?”
“In the Bronx. Started from the bottom.” I was trying to show him a non-privileged person could also make it out in the world just in case he didn’t get it.
“How did it feel? To start from the bottom and work so hard and get into NYU?” he smiled and I thought the question was peculiar, but his face was filled with genuine curiosity. I didn’t answer. Instead I gave him a befuddled look.
“I envy you,” he told me with a polite smile. He envies me! A billionaire envies a police officer. I couldn’t fathom it. I laughed.
“You’re fucking crazy.”
“Can you be unsatisfied with satisfaction?”
I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Listen.” He talked to me as if he was about to tell a story. “I was born into a wealthy family. My mother was an actress and my father was the CEO of Weston Hotels.” Strangely, he told me this in a gloomy manner. I got kicked out of ten of the best private schools in the United States but I always got back in, and eventually went to Harvard University and graduated just like that,” he snapped his fingers.
“ You know why?” He rubbed his thumb and fingers against each other. “Money,” he chuckled. “Oh the prerogatives of being rich! I have hotels and towers all over the U.S. and abroad. I have mansions, cars, women, and superfluously expensive clothing! I’ve been to the UAE, Mumbai, Brazil, Russia, Cuba, France, Spain….Everywhere! You name it.” He was a little angrier now. “I have private fucking jets, private islands, private everything!” I was speechless. I didn’t understand what was going on.
“Everything…Everything…Everything,” Paul kept repeating. He let out a quick dreadful chuckle. He became red, and I could have sworn his eyes were getting misty.
“Everything…for nothing…Everything…for nothing,” he talked in a calmer manner.
“I have everything. And I didn’t have to do a single damn thing for it. I have everything, yet I have accomplished nothing.”
He stared at me for a second. The he suddenly broke into a spontaneous sob. I was bewildered.
“I’m miserable!” he cried desperately. “I have everything, but I’m fucking miserable!” Paul put his head on the table.
I couldn’t comprehend why Paul was crying, but I was even more taken aback by the fact that I was beginning to pity him. Out of everyone, Paul Weston should know how it feels to achieve something. But with his congenital affluence, perhaps he hadn’t ever faced an obstacle that he couldn’t easily overcome. Maybe Paul considered his life to be purposeless since it was devoid of the experience of taking perilous risks in order to succeed.
“You should have let me die, David,” he said, still sobbing on the table. “You shouldn’t have saved me.” He looked up at me. His eyes red and brooding. Suddenly, my eyes began to fill with water and as soon as I blinked, a tear popped out of my right eye and slid down my face. Never in a million years did I think I would shed a tear over a billionaire. I was still speechless. Suddenly behind my chair, the door to the room opened. I quickly wiped the tear off my face. It was Captain Allen.
“Mr.Weston,” Captain Allen said. “Your family is here to see you.”
Paul stood up slowly. He wiped his face and slowly lifted up from his chair. He walked towards the door, but before he reached the door, he stopped in front of me. We were facing opposite directions.
“And now,” he said calmly. “I have to go back to the world and put on this facade of being the happiest man alive. I would kill to switch places with you, David Smith.” He continued out the door and I heard him say it was nice talking to me as he walked away. I realized that I would never want to take Mr. Weston’s place.